MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday appealed to Filipinos in Saudi Arabia to respect the laws of the kingdom after 18 Philippine nationals were arrested for protesting outside the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) in Riyadh on Tuesday.
Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, spokesman for the DFA, said the 18 migrant workers arrested were among 35 Filipinos, including seven women and three children, who held a sit-in in front of the Polo in Riyadh demanding that their repatriation be expedited.
“In light of this incident, we would like to call on citizens to respect Saudi laws. We likewise urge individuals and groups not to agitate our [compatriots] and instead encourage them to cooperate with the [Philippine] Embassy, the Polo and the Saudi government,” Hernandez said.
“Mass actions are prohibited under Saudi law. Participation in such activities will only jeopardize the processing of their repatriation,” he said.
Hernandez said Polo officials and Saudi diplomatic police tried several times to appeal to the group to disperse peacefully, but the protesters allegedly refused to budge.
He said the group “attempted to enter” the Polo premises.
After 11 p.m. on Tuesday, the Saudi diplomatic police moved in to remove the protesters from the diplomatic quarters.
Eighteen men were rounded up, but 15 were immediately released and three held overnight on suspicion they were the leaders of the protest.
The women and children were moved to the Philippine Embassy’s shelter for migrant workers awaiting repatriation.
The Filipinos staged the protest a day before the Saudi government extended to Nov. 3 the July 3 deadline for illegal migrant workers in the kingdom to correct their status.
The extension was allowed to accommodate foreign governments concerned about the welfare of their citizens.